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Report: Former deputy held gun to suspect's head

Annie Zelm • Jan 29, 2011 at 6:05 PM

After repeatedly kicking a suspect in the head, a former Huron County deputy held a gun to the man's head with his finger on the trigger.

Another officer was so concerned that he intervened by pushing the gun away, according to documents Sheriff Dane Howard released this week after law officials decided not to charge the deputy.

While Deputy Joseph Leroux held the gun to the back of Jeremy Payne's head, Payne lay handcuffed with his face in the dirt, the Ashland County Sheriff's investigator wrote in his report after Huron County forwarded the case to him for an independent evaluation.

Leroux resigned in November in lieu of termination.

Sandusky prosecutor Lynne Gast King recommended not charging him after she examined Payne's medical records and the investigative reports.

King said earlier this week although she didn't necessarily agree with Leroux's actions, she could find no evidence he'd injured Payne.

Norwalk law director Stuart O'Hara agreed with her recommendation, opting not to charge him.

Huron County Sheriff Dane Howard said that doesn't change the fact that Leroux deserved to be fired.

"There is no evidence that the suspect was resisting in any manner," Howard wrote after reviewing the investigative reports. "In fact, there is compelling evidence that the suspect was compliant. Further, the deputy's actions were not consistent with the policies of this office. ... Deputy Leroux used force that was not necessary, and compromised himself, the suspect and this office, as well as extending our liability."

Leroux and others from multiple agencies arrested Payne and his brother Oct. 30 after the two allegedly stole a snow blower in Fremont and started a heroin-fueled chase that ended when the Paynes crashed on U.S. 250 near Norwalk.

As Leroux exited his cruiser, he drew his pistol in one hand and his taser in the other, according to testimony he provided during Ashland County's investigation.

Holding two weapons of different strengths at the same time was his first mistake, according to the Ashland County detective.

Leroux said when Jeremy Payne refused to come out of the pickup truck, he pulled him out and ordered him onto the ground.

He said he aimed a kick at Payne's shoulders but accidentally struck his head when the pickup truck rolling into the cruiser distracted him.

Leroux argued he kicked Payne to let him know "I mean business" when Payne wouldn't show his hands. He admitted he held his pistol to Payne's head even though the suspect complied with his orders, but said he couldn't recall whether his finger was on the trigger.

When asked why he'd used more force when Payne was cooperating, his only explanation was that he acted on adrenaline.

His statements contrast testimony given by Payne and law enforcement officials who witnessed the incident.

Norwalk police Sgt. Jim Montana testified Leroux was already handcuffed when he pushed the pistol away from Payne's head. Sheriff's Capt. Bob McLaughlin said Leroux later asked, "Would you have backed me up if I shot him?"

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